Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Libraries at risk?

South Glos Council is consulting about the future of our public libraries. Last week the council launched a consultation on cuts to libraries of £650,000.

The ruling Conservatives' preferred option would involve closing the Mobile Library that serves our rural communities along with Chipping Sodbury Library and cutting smaller libraries like Winterbourne to two days a week opening funded by South Glos. Main libraries like Yate and Thornbury would have their hours cut by 8 hours per week on average. They would then look to local communities and volunteers make up some of the lost hours.

They're not giving people in Chipping Sodbury a lot of choice - all the options presented involve closing Chipping Sodbury Library, or possibly making it volunteer-staffed. Likewise all the options would scrap the ageing Mobile Library and replace it by a volunteer service to pick up books for individuals.

There are some flaws in the evidence they produce. Although the cost of running Chipping Sodbury Library is less than the South Glos average (in fact it's the cheapest library of all per opening hour), they say that the vast majority of users also use another library. After all, Yate Library is only a mile down the road. But perhaps people are using Yate as well because it caters more for their needs, or relatives or friends are picking books up for them? It's not clear - they haven't analysed why people use several libraries - in fact almost half of library users in South Glos use more than one library.

The other potential flaw is the equalities assessment - the number of older users at Chipping Sodbury is much higher than average, and the proportion of disabled users is the highest of any South Glos branch library. Another point is that they make almost no use of volunteers to support the service provided there.

The libraries might also be impacted by a review of council buildings.

So what can YOU do?
  • You can find out more, including information packs for each individual library, and make your comments here until 13th May. Individual comments are VERY important - tell South Glos how these changes would impact you.
  • Your Focus Team thinks that protecting services like youth provision and libraries is more important than cutting 50p per month off the green bin charge. If you agree, please sign our petition as well as responding to the council. 
  • If you are particularly concerned about Chipping Sodbury Library, please sign the 38 Degrees petition against the closure
  • Share the campaigns on social media - Twitter, Facebook etc.

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